#OHBlogging Volunteer Night at #MedWish

Last Tuesday I was given the wonderful opportunity to learn about a local organization changing saving many lives and improving the quality of life for everyone. MedWish International is located in Cleveland, less than an hour drive from where I live. Tucked away in a building complex shared with the Cleveland Clinic, those simply driving by may never know the magic they are passing.

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Photo respectfully borrowed from Poise in Parma

Luckily the Ohio Blogging Association was given the chance to learn about the organization and volunteer.  So along with the following people I now know about the magic.

I know a lot of write-ups focus on official stats and press releases, I have even written this way before. Not this time. Over the past week I have told nearly everyone I come in contact with about the volunteer night.  While I may not be a memorized the sales pitch, I think my fascination and passion are more than any marketing campaign can provide. However, I will share from their website, the official mission statement, value statement and core values.

Mission Statement

MedWish International is a not-for-profit organization committed to repurposing medical supplies and equipment discarded by the healthcare industry with the objectives of providing humanitarian aid in developing countries to save lives andreducing waste to save our environment.

Value Statement

MedWish International provides donated medical supplies to individuals and organizations dedicated to providing care that directly lessens the burden of suffering people in under-served areas regardless of religious or political affiliation. Medical supplies and equipment provided by MedWish International may not be sold.

Core Values

MedWish will conduct itself adhering to the following core values:

  • Humanitarian Focus – we are dedicated to providing medical aid to lessen the burden of suffering people regardless of religious or political affiliation.
  • Environmental Consciousness – we will look for every opportunity to recover, recycle and redistribute all in-kind donations.
  • Community Benefit – we give back to the community through the use of local services, employment and partnerships.
  • Integrity – we will “do the right thing” operationally, financially and socially.
  • Respect for Our Employees, Volunteers and Partners – we will support an environment of respect, collaboration and safety.

We began our evening after introductions with a tour of the facility. We stopped in a beautifully painted hallway highlighting the many areas of the world MedWish has provided supplies. One of our tour guides told a story about one of the founders (I believe) who witnessed (or heard about?) a young woman who was in an accident. The medical staff was able to stabilize her and it seemed with proper care she would pull through. Unfortunately, there was a tube missing from the ventilator and it would have been impossible to get one in time. A piece of equipment probably tosses aside in excess countless times from our programs, could have saved this woman’s life.

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Needless to say this impacted me. Especially since I spent the day in the ER only 2 hours before arriving on site. A story for another day. We continued to walk through and saw where deliveries are dropped off, various sorting stations, and racks with prepared equipment ready to move on to their new homes.

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If you have only skimmed so far, let me break it down to you how this program works. In a standard hospital lots of things come in kits. When you go for a gallbladder removal, or heart procedure or whatever the tools come in a large kit where everything in wrapped on its own and then sealed together for easy grab-an-go access. When the “heart kit” for example is opened maybe only 3 of the 10 tools are used. What happens the other other 7? Despite being individually wrapped, they are no longer considered sterile. It is cheaper to throw them out then it is to put them through a re-sterilization process. (UNBELIEVABLE!)

MedWish collects these items and sends them to other countries where such supplies may not normally be available. Those who receive the supplies are aware they items may or may not be sealed in a protective way. Sometimes where they go there is no electricity or running water. Our standards can’t be pushed onto them, as difficult as it may be to accept. IMHO I’d rather them attempt to do some good with a tool boiled to clean it, then to not have the tool at all.

What about expired items? Well, if MedWish finds items no longer safe for use with humans there are two possible alternatives. First, the items may be donated to another agency with non-human functions. Rubber gloves may be “expired” based on their casing, but they’re still safe to use for clean up. Those may find a home at a local animal shelter. There’s also the option for the public to come and claim supplies. As long as you agree the use is non-human and non-medical. MedWish has had Girl Scout troops collect items to be used in art projects.

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Can you even grasp the social, economic and environmental impact?

How are recipients chosen? Well, good question. MedWish works solely on a process of having people ask for their help. They do not partner with anyone exclusively and they do not seek out recipients. In their minds it doesn’t do any good to send 10 new ultrasound machines to a hospital without working power, right? Also, they don’t pay for these items as they’ve all been donated. The only cost is to pay for shipping. We were told a story where one hospital received a package they paid $40 in shipping coats to receive. When they itemized the contents it would have normally cost $27,000. Try to wrap your head around that information.

What did OBA do to help? We put together medical kits. Our small, but might force formed an assembly line and built “medical burritos”.  Well, we called them medical burritos due to the way they were wrapped. Really they were standard medical kits. Inside were gauze patches, tweezers, various sized/shape scissors, cleaning treatments and other things.

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We were very proud of our contributions and I know personally, it feels great to give back. This was an organization where I can’t imagine anyone having an issue with what they do or who they help. I have every intention of following up and returning to volunteer on my own. Any locals want to coordinate with me and go together?

Need more information on MedWish? Check them out on Facebook and on Twitter. Also, their big Band Aid Bash is coming up on Saturday, April 27 at the non-profit’s warehouse.

What’s the next Ohio Blogging Association meetup? I’m glad you asked. RSVP by April 8 at the Facebook event page for our meetup at the Cleveland Museum of Art on Wednesday, April 17. Learn all about the Last days of Pompeii. Bloggers, blog readers, tweeters… everyone is invited!

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